Stilton’s Crossroads by Robert McGough

A rooster had not performed the job of waking the collection of six houses that made up the fleabite of Stilton’s Crossroads in over three years. That honor, such as it was, had fallen to the former professor, former reverend, current town drunk Reggie Lee Mast, formerly of Fort Payne Alabama.

As Idda Bell sat rocking on her front porch swing, idly flapping her dress as if by doing so she could ward off the intense heat of the day that was sure to come, she reflected that “fallen to” was the wrong phrase. The good doctor-reverend-drunk had bludgeoned his way into the role, and to this day she was certain the man had purposefully run over Luke Rawls' prize rooster for just that reason. Sure he'd paid for the rooster, but then he had money coming in for his book and could afford it.

She looked down the road over to what had once been Tommy McGinty’s cornfield; the sun was just beginning to make itself known over the tops of the pines that grew right up to the edge of it. What had once held long straight rows of bright yellow corn held now instead a dingy yellow school bus with the tires removed. An eyesore anyway you sliced it she thought. How anyone, especially once a man of God, could fall so low as to live in a one of the county’s old busses… well it just wasn’t right.

As if on schedule, the door wrenched to and out staggered the Once Reverend Mast, electric guitar strapped across his chest, carefully walking so as not to become tangled in the cord that ran back inside. He took a few steps out into the growing dawn, leaning back and rubbing his eyes with the back of his hand. His long, greasy blonde hair was falling out of a loosely knotted ponytail as he stretched his arms wide and hocked a thick wad of spit outward.

Snatching more slack into his cord, he climbed up the roughly built wooden steps that took him onto the deck he had built atop the bus. He paused long enough to free the cable from where it had caught on a nail, then fell back into a battered old arm chair that rested beneath an equally distressed umbrella. From the pocket of his heavily soiled work shirt he pulled a pack of cigarettes and, after digging through his jeans, mated them with his lighter.

Idda Bell could see the pleasure the man took from that drag of his cigarette, and it disgusted her; the man derived an obscene amount of enjoyment from degenerate acts. Her husband Jerome had smoked a pack a day for forty plus years, but he did it in a workaday fashion; didn’t sit there and flaunt it before all creation. She shuddered.

Away on his deck, Dr. Mast reached into the cooler beside him. The ice was long melted, and the labels on the bottles had all but soaked off in the water that was left, but he didn’t seem to mind, twisting the top off of one, pouring the lukewarm beer down his throat. And as he did, raising the middle finger on the hand holding the bottle.

The old widow huffed to herself. It was this every morning with this man. He had no class, no respect for his elders. Shameful.

Setting the bottle beside him, he cracked his knuckles and laid his fingers on the strings. A pick appeared seemingly by magic as he turned it on. He started as he did every morning: performing a haunting imitation of a whippoorwill by dragging his pick down the length of the strings. Swooo Swooo Swoooooot!

That call rang out three times. It was the only part of the morning that Idda enjoyed. She knew that whippoorwills were still around, but it had been years it felt like since she last heard one. It reminded her of her youth, and the first time her daddy had taught her to whistle, using their cry. Every morning she would whistle along with the guitar, but so low that he couldn't hear her.

Mast's foray into bird calls done, he began a song she had never heard before. Or she might have, all the songs he played sounded alike to her. Rock. She snorted and grabbed her coffee mug from the little table. Where the rooster would have crowed a couple of times and been done with it, the Crossroads would have to deal with at least fifteen minutes of this.

He had risen to his feet now, really getting into it; he stood there swaying to the music, lost within the song he played. When he was done, he could settle down to the day's task of obliterating his mind and liver. But till then, music came to the Crossroads.

Born and raised in southern Alabama, Bob has been writing as long as he can remember, though only began to take it seriously in the Fall of 2012. That year he completed his first NaNoWriMo, writing a collection of short stories.

This gave him the impetus to actually attempt to pursue a career as a writer. 

A graduate of Troy University, holding a Bachelors in Anthropology and a Masters in Post Secondary Education (Music Industry), he currently pays the bills by working at a warehouse, and occasional small writing gigs for bands and businesses.

He is a firm believer that puns are the highest form of humor.